For 47-year-old social work graduate Jennifer Morris, becoming a social worker is a calling. Morris has maintained two jobs in addition to her practicum and studies and suffered losses, including her niece and service dog of 16 years. Despite life’s challenges, Morris persevered in completing her degree, graduating this May with her master’s in social work.
“You become family in this program,” Morris said. “It was my fellow classmates and the diverse teachers that supported me in finishing this degree.”
Morris has been involved in numerous extracurriculars throughout her time at KU, including the Honors Program, National Association of Social Workers, One Homeless Night and serving as BSW senior class president.
In her future, Morris plans to become a licensed clinical social worker and open her own practice.
Read more about how she got to where she is today and her words of wisdom for others pursuing a degree.
Q: What was a typical day in your life like as a student?
A: A typical day in my life was getting up at 7 a.m. and going to practicum, where I work as a quality mental health provider at ReDiscover. I then came home, eat dinner and went to my evening jobs where I care for elderly clients at an independent living facility and help an individual client with spinal muscular atrophy out of his chair and into bed. My days felt both exhausting and rewarding at the same time. On Thursdays, I was in class for most of the day.
Q: What makes you the happiest?
A: The thing that makes me the happiest is meeting my long-term goals. I can only imagine what it will feel like to walk across the stage as a KU Jayhawk graduate!
Q: What motivates you?
A: The thing that motivates me is Amea Chandler at KUEC. I have been able to send her an email and always get an immediate response. If she can handle all of us diversified students, then I can handle what I have been training at KU to do for many years now.
Q: Why did you choose KU and the Edwards Campus?
A: I chose KUEC because the KU School of Social Welfare is home of the strengths-based perspective. Also, a KU degree has been highly valued in social work culture. I wanted to be part of a school that is so involved with the community around it.
Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?
A: KUEC met both my personal and academic needs by giving me an advisor, counselors and teachers that were accessible and that I felt comfortable confiding in. They investigated every avenue possible to me on this journey.
Q: How has your KU degree prepared you for the future?
A: My KU degree has prepared me for a future by not only giving me the academic tools, theories and research needed to be competitive in this field, but more importantly, the experience I needed to feel confident in the job I have been called to do.
Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?
A: The hardest part of earning my degree was managing practicum and a job at the same time. I overcame this by using my advisor and teachers for support when I felt tired and overwhelmed and being honest with my instructors about what I needed to make the program work for me to the best of my ability.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?
A: My proudest accomplishment is having one of my teachers compliment me on the fact that I could be a city leader combating homelessness in my city. Also, making it across the finish line and completing my next level degree gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?
A: My favorite memory of my time at KUEC was being on campus and hanging out in the Jayhawk Nest with my fellow grad classmates, eating dinner together before our last class of the night. You become family in this program.
Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
A: My long-term career goals is to become a licensed clinical social worker and have a private practice or a not-for-profit. I plan to stay with ReDiscover while I do supervision toward my clinical licensure working with clients with trauma and addiction and cultivating the skills KU has already given me.
Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?
A: The advice I would give others who are thinking of earning a degree is communicate with your KU supports and NEVER GIVE UP! I have gone through the loss of a niece and having my service dog of 16 years cross the rainbow bridge a month and a half before walking across the stage with her. It was my fellow classmates and the diverse teachers at KU that supported me in finishing this degree. I did not know how to finish at times, as I was overwhelmed being by myself and a nontraditional student, but by being honest with my teachers and advisors, I was able to make this lifelong dream a reality.